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Boston, US
Posts: 205

Due: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 8:00 am (sections 01 and 04)

Wednesday, November 18 at 8:00 am (sections 02 and 03)

Reading: Kenneth and Mamie Clark, "Racial Identification and Preference in Negro Children," 1950 (You will need to download this)

As we saw with the children in Anderson Cooper’s piece for CNN on skin color preferences [see below for the links, in case you missed class], when asked to judge what skin color young children preferred, the general sense was that they preferred lighter skin to darker skin. The question of whether adults preferred a particular skin color again, according to the children interviewed, seemed to be that, “Yes, they do. They prefer the lighter skin colored people.”

Now granted, Cooper’s study was not scientific and therefore could easily be questioned, but it is the recreation of an study done by Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1940-1941, a study that was at the core of the arguments made in favor of the plaintiff in the landmark Brown v Board of Education case that led to desegregation of the nation’s public schools after the Supreme Court ruled in 1954. A summary of that study by the Clarks in the link as the reading above.

You read Paul Bloom’s “Moral Life of Babies” for class on Thursday/Friday. No doubt that gave you some insight into what we are born with vs. what we learn. But how do we explain how those children responded in the Anderson Cooper 2010 recreation of the Kenneth + Mamie Clark 1940-1941 research? After all, as Cooper remarks, he is conducting this two years after the United States elected its first mixed race president!

And you all took the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Irrespective of which test you took, you received some kind of score by the end. What did the test reveal?

In other words—and here’s two big questions for you to ponder:

(1)Where/how do children learn to discriminate? Is it innate? Is it learned? Is it a combination of the two? And whether it’s innate, learned, or both, can it be undone? When you reflect on this, give some concrete examples or anecdotes, if they support your views.

(2)And, while you are not young children, you are closer to your childhood than your old age! What did the IAT results tell you? Do you think they are a good way to assess the associations you make (aka—your unconscious bias)? Tell us why you find this a valuable exercise—or not—and why.

For any of you who either missed class or want to re-view the clips we watched:

Anderson Cooper/CNN recreation of the doll study:

Part 1: [5:27]

Part 2: [5:18]

boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Nurture and Nature but mostly Nurture

Children learn to discriminate right from when they are born. Being physically different from someone else at a young age will create an "Us and Them" viewpoint. This type of discrimination is innate because of how much newborns value what they see to help them make sense of the world. What happens to these views after comes to how they are raised. Feeling different from a different group of people and then being shown an environment that furthers these views, be it through only seeing people in your group or being taught about the "out" group as different from yours and not being set straight, is how you get to the point where the kids in either video are.

Each race of children have been born into the world different from the other race, and if these differences are exaggerated in their culture by their parents or community this difference may take a destructive, unhealthy relation with the other race.

I am a white male who grew up in a liberal household and went to an almost 33% white, 33% hispanic, 33% african american, and when i took the test based on skin color i got a surprising lack of preference. I would have guessed a light to medium preference towards lighter skin colors because while in elementary school I hung out with mostly people of my race.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 11

The Human Condition

I refuse to believe that something like discrimination could be innate in anyone, let alone a child. I may be a cynical pessimist when it comes to some (okay, most!) things, but still. I’d like to think that discrimination is learned. There are so many things that are innate and essential to human nature, but hate is something that, I think, was a result of human interaction over time.

Children are very vulnerable in that they are easily influenced and susceptible to influence, good and bad. Just the other week, my brother was using his phone and not watching where he was going when he bumped into our table and stubbed his toe. In his pain, he said some not so PG things and my baby sister, who is four, was in the same room. Needless to say, my mom hasn’t been very happy about her new word of the week. When children are put in a certain environment, they will mimic whatever they see and children see far more than we think them capable of.

If I really think about it, even I was a victim to this when I was younger. I just remember feeling so out of place because I looked nothing like all the people on TV. You know when children like a show and they start saying, “Oh, I’m so-and-so” and “That’s me”? I never really had that. It’s never that I hated myself or any part of me. It was just really uncomfortable for me and I did everything I could to escape that discomfort. I tried my best to be something I wasn’t because I felt this pressure to rid myself of my “otherness”, which I felt only served to ostracize me. It’s not something that was even conscious on my part at the time. It wasn’t until recent self-reflection that I even realized this all. It just goes to show how subtle this influence can be.

When I took the IAT test for race, I found results that weren’t all that surprising. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I know that I got a high percentage (somewhere over 50%) that indicated that I was more neutral. It makes sense because of how I grew up. When I was younger, I moved around a lot. It got to the point where I didn’t stay at one school for more than two years. Because of this, I was exposed to a wide variety of diversity in my environment. I’d go from a school that was mostly African-American and Hispanic students to one where there was a majority of Caucasian students. Being the awkward, antisocial person I was, of course, it took me a while to adapt, no matter the situation, but that had more to do with the move I think. Let me just say that antisocial behavior does not discriminate. Besides that though, I never really felt more comfortable near any specific race or group of people. As much as I may have hated moving so much, I’m grateful at least for this one thing.

I also think that discrimination is something that can be unlearned if a person is willing to go in with an open mind. There are so many people in this world who just choose to blatantly ignore certain things and act as though everything is fine. Those people are beyond saving and, to be honest, I have no patience for them. I’m sorry (not really though <3) but I don’t think it’s any person’s job to educate a person who refuses to face reality and acknowledge facts. Why waste my breath on a person who can just disregard the humanity in another person?

Posts: 21

Discimination: Recognizing and Addressing

While I believe that discrimination and bias is absolutely taught unconsciously to many young children, I think that it also part of human nature to discriminate. I don't think it is possible to eliminate all kinds of discrimination from the human mind; I think it is a natural instinct that is built into our "system", and that all humans have some kind of discimination, whether conscious or unconscious. Humans have a tendency to alienate those who are not the same as themselves, whether in appearance or personality. Obviously, it is more present in some people than others. However, I think that the best way to combat this is to recognize it, and address it. While I don't think it is possible to eliminate all discrimination, because there is so much unconscious discrimination, we can eliminate the vast majority of it simply by recognizing that it happens within ourselves and making a conscious effort to stop it.

This being said, I do believe that many children in the US are taught to discriminate, whether by their teachers, parents, or peers. A large part of this seems to be within the education system. Many children who grow up in private schools grow up going to school with only people who look like them, and thus have already created bias by the time they get out of elementary school. Some discrimination is also taught outright in our Eurocentric history curriculums.

I also think that while it is only a relative measurement, the IAT is at least somewhat accurate. I was not surprised that I myself have some internal implicit bias, something that I'm working to eliminate a lot. However, this test is not the only measurement of discrimination and bias. Every so often, I find it beneficial to take a step back and examine my own thoughts. It is through this kind of recognition that we can combat the discrimination and/or bias that is likely present in all of us.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Language And Surroundings Impact Our Thinking

I don’t think that discrimination is an innate feeling, at least not discrimination against other groups of people. In the last post discussion about choice, humans do have an innate feeling to choose something, and with that they develop ways to judge on which things are better than others. The way in which they judge people goes hand in hand with discrimination, as they learn through their environments which people are better than others. I feel like children mostly learn how to discriminate through their family and social environment, such as school, rather than being born with these feelings. I actually took a class over the summer about the development of the way babies think, and in order to differentiate between things, babies must learn how to make inferences about the object, which they learn through language. The comprehension and inferences they make of words all come from their social context and routine, so for example, if family members or the people constantly around them were to say that girls are just as good as boys at math, it is actually implying that boys are the default, and play on this idea that they are superior than girls. In the same way, this could be applied to the topic of discrimination against black people where if someone said that white people were just as likely as black people to go to jail, even though it may not sound bad, it is implying that black people are dangerous and go to jail often because of that. These minor ways in which we say things actually impact how children think about certain things or groups of people. It is even more harmful when stereotypes are said more directly because then it is more clear to them what is considered a “good” or “bad” person. I think that these ways of thinking could be changed, however, as stereotypes to make inferences about people come from lack of understanding or exposure. Therefore, if a person were to learn more about a given topic, their knowledge would expand, and thus their views would change as well.

When I took the IAT, the results kind of surprised me as when I took the test a few years ago, it showed that I had a preference for white people over black people. However, the results this time showed that I was pretty equal overall. I feel like the test was a fairly good way to access my unconscious bias, but obviously not the best. In fact, I feel like it is more of a test of how coordinated I am if anything because I found myself constantly mixing up the controls, especially after they switched the placements. Therefore, unless someone is especially good with their coordination, I feel like this test isn’t really a valuable exercise in terms of accuracy. However, I do think it does an okay job at least accessing an approximation or getting an idea of where you stand in terms of bias. I don’t think we can ever properly measure the amount of bias we have, but it is a good step to acknowledging that we have these biases and to reflect on it heavily ourselves.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18


“No child is born with racism” has been a phrase that has risen in popularity over the few months. I find it to be fundamentally correct. In a child’s foundation is the motherly love and parental guidance from both parents. To what extent it is impactful, we cannot measure. But what is guaranteed is that the parents had at least some role. Every parent’s job is to tell children of dangers and how to stay away or to give advice on situations and deal with them. It is impossible for biases to enter the conversation. It is always an unconscious if not conscious decision. Sometimes in a child’s situation, a specific race will be a common aggressor. That creates biases. From a young age, wariness will be instilled in that child. It cannot be undone. In a child’s mind it will always be there whether they know it or not. The only thing to do is for a child to learn that not everyone will trigger that fear and there are good people in this world. I personally grew up in a predominately African American neighborhood, Grove Hall, and there was a high crime rate around my apartment. My parents always told me to be wary of African American people in public and to never be out late. In elementary school, I also went to a predominantly African American school and was bullied alot for being Asian American. This resulted in a fear of Afican American strangers being developed at a young age. But as I grew and exposed myself to different people, I’ve come to appreciate their culture and people and have learned that color is not a defining factor in anything. It is the person themselves as a whole.

My IAT results tell me that I am not really biased towards any race. I think it's a good indication and a good spot to be. With my exposure to different types of people I have come to suppress my biases. I don’t know if its a good way to indicate who you definitely are but a good way to tell you in general how you are. I do find it a valuable exercise. It gives me insight on how I am as a person and gives me wisdom for teaching younger children.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Why do children discriminate?

I think children learn to discriminate from their parents, even if their parents have never directly told their children their opinions. Children have a tendency to listen and eavesdrop to their parents conversations, and I can confirm I have done this. We believe what our parents believe when we’re young because (in most cases) we trust what they say, and we don’t know any better. I think it’s innate as well, depending on factors like the environment you’re surrounded by. You might think one way if your neighborhood/school is a majority of one race, and you might think differently if your neighborhood/school is more diverse. I think you can unlearn to discriminate, but you have to realize you can form opinions that are different from your family. I think some children struggle with forming their own opinions as they become teenagers. You also have to become aware of the judgements you’re making, and when you do, work on how to think differently and more positively. The Implicit Association Test

(IAT) told me that I have no preference. I'm not surprised by my results because I’ve worked on thinking more positively and making less judgements about people. I’m also surrounded by a more diverse community, and am able to form my own individual opinions. The IAT test seems to be somewhat accurate from my experience taking their tests. I think it was a valuable exercise because it’s always beneficial to get an idea of where you are at when it comes to implicit bias.

Boston, Ma, US
Posts: 18

What Factors into Biases

I think discrimination is a behavior that kids learn from the world around them, and although it may not always purposely be taught, they pick up on the implicit biases of adults around them. I think because biases are a thing children learn without thinking, that if they are taught to think about biases, and are taught to question themselves, as well as being exposed to people who are different from them. The thing that made me the most hopeful out of all of this was the girl in the Anderson Cooper video that knew that judging people based on their skin color is wrong, because it makes me feel that some of the younger kids who had extreme biases may learn to question them.

I thought that my IAT results were very interesting. About 5 years ago I had taken the Black-white test and it had came out that I had a slight bias towards Black people, which I thought may have been a fluke since I am white, live in a very white neighborhood, and have only gone to predominantly white schools, and normally people implicitly favor people similar to those they’ve been exposed to. This time I took the light-dark skin tone test and similarly I got that I slightly preferred darker skin, which looking at myself objectively makes no sense. I think this may be because while some people grow up being fed racist stereotypes about people of color, for the most part I have been fed negative things about white people by my parents, often using my many questionable cousins as examples. For example a common stereotype is that African-American men are more likely to be criminals, and while that’s something I’ve heard, it’s not something I’ve ever experienced in real life, whereas I have several cousins who have been to jail, one was even the center of a FBI sting operation. I think that the IAT was a helpful exercise, because it led me to discover a bias that I never would have thought I had and try to unpack why I have it.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Why do Children Discriminate??

After watching Anderson Cooper's CNN study, reading Paul Bloom's "Moral Life of Babies", and taking 2 IAT's, I begin to understand the problem that is being clearly shown here. Though I have known for the past 5 or so years the existing discrimination still happening, kids at such a young age making these statements and there answers to various questions surprised me. Though I do not know what I would've said in that situation at that age, I am still surprised of the amount of kids that liked lighter skin better and believed that adults preferred lighter skin.

So, how and where did children learn this? I think the answer most relies on their parents or elder figures in their life, as well as their enviornment when they were growing up. Children aren't born with discrimination, but with the influence of their parents and family, or fellow kids would influence them. I think it is a combination of something they learned and innateness. I think it can be undone, espiecially at the young age that they are at.

I can relate somewhat to this study from myself. When I was in 6th grade I took this exact study, and I was told that I prefer white people over black people. Keep in mind I was in 6th grade. Also, I went to a private school in the middle of Boston to which out of the 300 kids in our school, on average about 2 or 3 were African American. So I think my limited experience with African American children when I was younger heavily influenced my views. To prove that this can be undone, when I recently took the IAT, I was told that I had equal preference to white and black people. This is because obviously of myself growing up and maturing, as well as knowing and having experiences with people of color inside and outside BLS. I think those points together switched my bias and preference to eveness, which it what it should be.

Boston , MA, US
Posts: 16

Is Discrimination Learned?

Children definitely learn to discriminate from their home life, school life, and people around them generally. Kids learn to distinguish things of course, but the idea that a human being should be less than based on their skin color is not an idea a child forms on their own. Children associate trust with things and people they see everyday. If a child is exposed to a variety of things and diverse backgrounds from a young age they won’t see it as anything but normal. Schools should not be able to teach kids from only the racist point of view because we all know Christopher Colombus didn't discover the Americas and he does not certainty deserve a holiday, but manys schools do not provide this globalized history. Parents have a great influence over their kids, they are who kids trust and learn from so when they see an adult like this discriminating they too will learn it. However, when appreciation of different cultures is taught, kids learn to celebrate differences while valuing individuals. A big part of growing up and maturing is forming your own opinion and being aware of what biases you may have.

The IAT told me I had a preference for black people which I thought made sense since I live in a neighborhood filled with people of color. At my middle school you could count the number of white kids on one hand so it was not until highschool that I was exposed to people different than me.

Boston, MA
Posts: 20

Differentiating vs. Discriminating

I think children do have an innate sense of differentiating, but I think discriminating based on this is a learned behavior. Everyone has heard the story or been witness to an innocent child asking “Mommy, why does that person look like that?” Curious children have the ability to note and question the differences between themselves and others, whether that be skin color or any other difference, but the discrimination of others based on these differences is a learned behavior. It is through what they learn at home, in school, and on television that they begin to see these differences as a bad thing or something that could make one inferior to another. I think some parents raise their children with outright racists beliefs, and in some ways, this makes it easier to undo. It’s easier to point out these blatant racisms and try to educate one on them than to change a whole system of racially charged messaging. However, being raised with these outwardly racist beliefs can also be harder to unteach because if it's repeated enough times to a child, they will take it as the truth. If these racist beliefs are all they've ever known, it is hard to suddenly flip a switch and reverse these beliefs. I think a lot of learned discrimination comes from media: how BIPOC are portrayed in media, the underrepresentation of BIPOC in media, and the race relations within media. Often media like movies and television are filled with racial stereotypes, whether intentional or not. BIPOC are also extremely underrepresented in media, and this can skew children’s view of the world and what is right from an early age. Racial tension is often also showcased in TV and movies, and while this is an important issue to draw attention to through this medium, if young children don’t understand the messaging, they may just note the separation of races. This less obvious messaging of discrimination is harder to unteach because it’s harder to pick up on and even harder to erase from every form of media. I think the taught discrimination in America at least has to do with the much larger issue of how racism has become ingrained in every area of our society.

My IAT results indicated that I had no preference towards either race. I’d sort of selfishly like to believe this is true because, of course, I don’t want to be biassed towards either race, and especially in recent times, I have been working, as have many Americans, to recognize the implicit biases I may have. I think I’ve been exposed to a diverse enough group of people through school, work, and extracurriculars that it makes sense that I don’t have a preference for either race. I think while the test’s reliance on motor skills may be a bit flawed, the test is still valuable. Particularly if your bias on the test is overwhelming, I think the test is a good place to start in recognizing the biases one might have. It’s hard to pick up on one’s own implicit bias, so I think having a way to actually test if one has these biases is a good starting place to recognize and reform biases.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Discrimination and Bias

I think that children do not innately discriminate, but rather learn to discriminate from the environments that they are exposed to as they grow up. A child does not see something that is different from them and make the assumption of their own accord that that thing is inferior to them. Young children have actively developing brains, and are highly susceptible to being influenced by their environments, and the people that they interact with. For example, if a kid sees that their parents are less friendly to people of another race, they are likely to pick up on that difference, and it sticks with them. Even if they do not act or speak on that bias, if it was planted in their minds at a young age, it is likely to persist, potentially subconsciously.

As for whether learned biases can be unlearned, that is a more complicated issue. Once again, it depends heavily on one’s environment. If someone who has a bias against another group of people is continuously presented with information that reinforces that bias, it will become harder and harder to change their ways. Humans are creatures of habit. Most people have routines that they follow everyday, or certain things that they do almost without thinking. Bias is one of these habits that can become so ingrained in a person’s mind that it may seem innate. However, I believe that anyone has the capacity to change. For some, the difficulty of doing so is too much, but for many, with enough time and persistence, they will be able to change their ways, and become less biased toward other people.

The IAT results told me what I expected them to. According to the test, I have a slight preference for one race over another. Similarly to how I explained before, this is likely largely in part because of the environment that I grew up in. Throughout my life, I have spent more time with people of one race over another. However, this does not mean that I exclusively spend time with those people, which is most likely why my preference is only slightly in favor of one race. I think that the IAT is a good way to assess associations that people make, but not an entirely reliable one. The methods that the test employs are somewhat random due to them being based on reaction time, but overall, I think that it provides meaningful information. I think that it is a valuable exercise because it shows people their biases, and can give them the opportunity to acknowledge them, and learn to be less biased.

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 16

I think children learn racism from their surroundings because they are so impressionable at such a young age, so they learn from their parents or adults in their life's actions. I think it can be undone, but it would take a lot of work, depending on how their influences change.

My IAT results told me, that for both tests, that I do not have any bais', which is what I expected because my parents raised me to never judge someone based on their skin color or anything other than their character, and I hold that idea true to myself.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

Represent the Underrepresented

Children learn to discriminate from their environment. It is not a trait that you inherit, a gene that your mom had and passed it down to you. However, outside influences play the largest role in discrimination. Regardless of what many will say, that “America is no longer racist” or “Racism ended when the Civil Rights Act was passed in the 1960’s” is wrong, because people from that period who opposed it are your grandparents. Racism is something you learn to do at a young age. This can be seen when your dad told you to stay away from “that black man” who looks “shady”, or when you live in a community of predominantly white people who do not acknowledge racism, or when you have all white dolls and think the “black dolls are ugly” because they are simply different. There is also not enough representation in the media, children in my generation rarely saw black girls or boys on their TV screen. There's also not enough representation in books, film, art, and so much more. Now these practices aren’t inherently racist but when you underrepresent a group of people they become more indifferent to the majority of the population who is white. Now, I think that through education, representation, and listening to those affected by racism we can move forward to an anti-racist society. However, we are still far from that with internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and structural racism that still occurs till this day. I think that in the future we can get to a point of complete anti-racism, but I don’t think it will be anywhere close to the duration of my lifetime. And I say this from the perspective of a black woman who still gets stared at when I enter a room with both of my parents. Or when someone asks me if my mother is my nanny. Or when I’m asked to say the N-word.

My IAT results told me that I had a stronger preference for lighter skin tone rather than a darker skin tone. I was disappointed by these results but of course, but then I realized why. A majority of my childhood friends who I would spend every weekend with were white. I wanted to be like them, straightening my hair, dressing like them, talking like them, etc. I saw how much they were respected, how much they were represented in movies, books and TV shows, wanting to be like Cinderella or Arielle. I think that’s why I think it's so important to have more representation in film and media. I want to make sure that every black girl grows up not ashamed of who they are. Although this test allowed me to reflect on a lot of issues, I wouldn't consider it 100% accurate, there's a lot of pressure while taking the test, wanting to put the right answer down. It is also a fast paced test that you can easily make a mistake on, so I think that a longer extensive test could be even more accurate. It wouldn’t be right to completely denounce the legitimacy of this test but to take it into consideration and reflect on your results is a great place to start.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Are Humans Inherently Good?

(1) I think children learn to discriminate based off of both the demographics of their area and also the types of content that they are exposed to. If a child grows up in a neighborhood where there is only one race, they are predisposed to like that race. This is also true if the only content they see is people of one race. To me, that means that discrimination is learned. I don't think that we naturally discriminate for or against anyone, it is more likely that they learn it. This all, I feel is closer to the discussion of whether humans are inherently good or not. I want to believe that they are, so I have to believe that humans are not inherently discriminatory.
(2) The IAT results told me that I had a slight preference for Black People over White People. This is interesting because when I took this test three years ago, I had a slight preference for White People over Black People. This shift in preference, I think is another example of how bias can change as we grow older and talk to more people. I think it is a good way of showing that bias can exist and can be a part of our lives, but I do not think it is the be-all end-all for determining bias. This is definetly a good way to bring attention to an important issue in our lives right now, but I think that people can change, and recognizing that bias exists and reacting accordingly is a good thing.
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